How are you? Hope you are having a great week. Thank you for joining me today! This week's blog will contain two business updates and a fun couple exercise. Enjoy.
First, business updates.
Transitioning to a quarterly blog and newsletter:
I am going to transition from a weekly blog and weekly newsletter, to a quarterly blog and newsletter. I will also publish blogs and newsletters as important business updates occur.
My personal goal was to do these weekly, and I can say that I accomplished my goal and I learned a lot! I enjoy how as part of my job I get to keep learning all the time (both on the healthy relationships side and also the entrepreneurial side). Sometimes the pace is overwhelming, lol (as anyone who owns a business knows), but I really do love the journey. It's one of the reasons I started my own practice.
As you may know, I owned a counseling private practice (Tranquil Waters Counseling and Wellness) for 4 years and then I stayed at home for 2 years full-time with my daughter. For a couple years I was a full-time stay at home parent, and so even during that short time technology changed rapidly. In coming back to work, I sought to keep an eye out for helpful technology that will benefit my clients.
This is why I have developed an informative website, an online scheduling system, and intake paperwork you can complete securely from your smartphone (HIPAA compliant too!). Furthermore, I believe that blogs and newsletters are immensely helpful too... One, for clients seeking general information about the business who are trying to identify if I'm the right fit. Two, so that people interested in the business can stay informed about helpful products or services being offered.
I am also excited to transition to working on some different areas of growth in my business, but more on that on a later date!
I have learned a lot doing these weekly blogs and newsletters... I hope that they have been inspiring and useful for you as the reader! Thank you for following. And see you quarterly!
Changing the couples intake assessment process:
Another important business update is that I have changed the couples counseling intake assessment process.
I am excited to announce that I will be implementing a recommended intake assessment approach from Drs. John and Julie Gottman (2). This was inspired by my Level 1 (3) and Level 2 (4) Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Click the links if you want to learn more about them.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy recommends from their research that the initial assessment appointments involve the following: one meeting with the couple together, and separate individual appointments with each partner alone. The fourth session is a feedback session on the findings and counselor treatment recommendations.
I am proud to now be offering couples this assessment and feedback process. In the past I only assessed couples together at the intake. As you may know, if you have done couples counseling before or if you have ever worked on growing as a couple, your journeys are both together and separate. Furthermore, you may also have discovered (or may have been a little disappointed, lol!) that the only person you can change is yourself! This is one of the many reasons I am excited to connect with each partner individually, so I can better understand each person's journey and goals.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy has some really amazing tools for helping couples to emotionally connect; possibly even in deep ways they have never done before. If you are in couples counseling with me you will likely see some of these helpful strategies! I really love their approach!
Now, on to the fun couple exercise!
Usually at the top of my blogs I have a picture, but today I included a song by Maren Morris (1). I specifically chose a version with lyrics so you could read them while you listen. This song resonated with me as a relationship therapist because Maren explores profound relationship truths in a beautiful song.
The song is chock full of great relationship observations (and possible discussion points), but I will just explore one! Maren describes in the song how the paint can be peeling on the house or the glass could shatter, but as long as the bones are strong on the house, the house will still stand. I think this is very true in relationships. I often talk with couples about this, and I incorporate this in my life with my own family.
The paint peeling and the glass shattering are the problems that come up, differences in personality or style, normal developmental changes that are stressful, or mistakes we make. I like to emphasize that we cannot change that these things happen. There is no couple relationship that doesn't have problems or differences in personality! The goal of every couple is not to have an absence of problems, but to be able to feel stronger on the other side of conflict and challenges.
Additionally, what counts in having a long-term and mutually satisfying relationship are the bones... The bones are having integrity, being trustworthy, committing to each other, apologizing sincerely and making changes when you make a bad decision, honoring your partner's concerns and dreams (even when different from your own), being a friend, and always growing in your communication skills so that you can more smoothly work through the inevitable daily and weekly bumps in the road. I also think the bones could be considered the shared values you have.
This is what couples counseling is about... Helping couples to be able to handle problems and differences in a way that leaves the couple feeling more connected and stronger on the other side. It's about developing relationship resilience and a lasting emotional connection.
Have a wonderful rest of the week.
All the best,
PS - Can I send you an email about once a quarter? The email will have a link to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added.
Discuss, print, enjoy, and share the love.
This post was originally published by Holly L. Harrison on 5/21/2013. A picture has been added to the post, and updates/edits have been made for clarity (1).
Hey there! How are you? I'm so glad you're here today. This week I'm out of the office enjoying some family time with my sister, my brother-in-law, and their kids; it's always a treat to see them since they live in a different state! I'm grateful they made the drive here to Springfield.
Today I am republishing one of my past blog posts because it contains a really important lesson that I go over with each couple I work with. Not only is the information helpful for couples, but for anyone who may need to discuss a concern that contains strong emotions. I personally use this too! You can even use today's blog lesson with your kids, siblings, parents, co-workers, and others to help you have clearer communication and to help you keep the defensiveness and escalation down to a minimum. Talking about big emotions can be tough, but you don't need to make it harder than it needs to be!
When "I statements" Turn Ugly:
So, how many times have you heard the mantra that we should use “I statements” in our communication? Probably a lot! We often hear the recommendation that saying “I feel___________” will fix a lot of our communication problems. However, if you've used "I feel___________" with some mixed results, you may be wondering why sometimes the statements still lead to escalation, frustration, anger, and communication confusion. Today's blog is about helping you use the structure correctly, and how to avoid potential pitfalls. Let's prevent your I statements from turning ugly!
I statements definitely are very helpful when communicating, but there are some important nuances to remember when you use them. To demonstrate what I mean, I will give you two examples to compare and contrast.
Example 1: “When you raised your voice at me when we were at your parents’ house last night I felt hurt, upset, and embarrassed.”
Example 2: “Last night at your parents’ house, I felt you were trying to make a fool out of me and were out to prove how much more you know than I do. I feel that this is just another example of why you do not care about me.”
Okay… Which one would you rather hear from your partner? Which example seems a little fairer and more specific? Probably example one! Also, if you were the one hearing example two said to you, you are probably feeling a little defensive (or maybe quite a bit). Why is this?
People tend to tack on assumptions, or character attacks, onto the end of their I statements (“out to prove how much more you know than I do,” or “you do not care about me”). When this happens, your I statements quickly turn ugly. These negative assumptions convey a person is 100% bad, all the time. Essentially they convey the person has a serious character defect (which is shaming and blaming) instead of there being a specific behavior, or pattern of behaviors, that are a concern (and an opportunity for growth and discussion). Negative assumptions/character attacks also convey that you know exactly why the person did what they did which tends to escalate disagreements almost instantly.
The reason why I statements are recommended in the first place is because used properly, they stick purely to your emotional reaction and they steer clear from making our own interpretation or spin on what happened. In some cases, maybe you partner was making fun of you in the moment, but it does not necessarily mean he or she does not care about you. Delving deeper into this example, it's important to focus on the joke that was said, the tone of voice that was used, and how you felt after you heard the joke. The focus is on specific external observations and specific internal feeling reactions.
Things to remember when using I statements:
1. Avoid using “it made me feel” or "you made me feel." This conveys that the other person was trying to make you feel a certain way and can lead to defensiveness in the person hearing the statement. Just say "I feel ____________" or "I felt___________."
2. Stick to simple emotions after using “I feel.” Here are some examples of emotions: hurt, angry, frustrated, sad, happy, confused, embarrassed, panic, surprised, guilt, shame, hope, bored, scared etc.
3. Keep the negative assumptions, or character attacks, out of your conversation because it's not fair to the listener, it's not constructive feedback, and you could be veering into the territory of saying things to tear the other person down to make yourself feel better. Let the other person come forward and explain their actions. Ask questions instead of assuming.
4. During the overall discussion you are having, it helps to make a habit of sprinkling in what you appreciate and what has been especially meaningful to you in the past (in relation to the topic you are discussing). Why? It helps you both to see the bigger picture of the importance of your relationship as a whole. This will help keep defensiveness down, and you both will feel like you are having a helpful discussion instead of a fight.
I statements work best when people stick to stating how they feel, stating the specific behavioral observations (what was said or done), what their concerns are, and what they would like to see happen differently in the future (using specific examples). Sprinkle in some genuine statements of gratitude and appreciation that directly relate to the topic at hand. Then after this, allow your partner to come forward and explain what they did, why they did it, and to apologize. Ask questions to get clarification on assumptions you have.
Using I statements effectively in your communication can be one of many tools that you can use to make your communication better. By effectively using I statements, your communication will be much fairer, clear to the listener, and you will be more likely to come to a successful resolution.
After reading today's blog, have you ever been guilty of using the ugly I statement? Can you think of a time when someone has said an ugly I statement to you? Can you make a commitment to working on this and adding this into your Forever Homework habits (2)? Comment below!
Thanks for being here with me today. If this post was helpful, please hit the Facebook Like button below or share the blog on Twitter or Facebook. Talk to you next week!
All the best,
Holly L. Harrison
PS Can I send you an email about once a week? The email will have a link to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added.
References and Links
I’m New to Counseling and Confused Where to Start! What to Expect in Couples Counseling at MoxiePsychology Legacy.
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When looking around for couples counseling (or counseling in general) it’s hard to know where to go, who to choose, and what to expect… It can be really confusing! This is especially the case if you have never done counseling before. To add to the confusion, there are many different types of counselors to choose from.
Today’s post is all about what to expect from couples counseling here at MoxiePsychology Legacy. I also hope to clear up some confusion about the different types of counselors available to you.
Who works in the field of psychology as a counselor?
I often run into a lot of confusion and questions about the different types of mental health care workers; this is why I will explore a few different types of mental health professionals and their core differences.
One main distinguishing aspect of a psychiatrist, in comparison to other mental health providers, is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who primarily prescribes medication for mental health (occasionally they do a little counseling too, but their main focus is on psychiatric medication).
A psychologist has their doctorate in the field of psychology, and they have in-depth and specialized training in psychological assessments (such as IQ assessments, personality assessments, mental health diagnostic assessments, etc.). They may only focus their work on counseling, assessments, or they may do both counseling and assessments.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT):
A licensed marriage and family therapist could have either their doctorate or master’s degree. A licensed marriage and family therapist has specialized training and education in couples, families, and relationships in general. They have usually done hundreds (or possibly even thousands of hours) of relationship specific education, supervision, and clinical work. Marriage and family therapists are also trained in mental health diagnosis.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC):
Licensed professional counselors are mental health professionals with a master’s degree in a mental health area (such as clinical counseling). They have in-depth training in diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health disorders.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW):
Some licensed clinical social workers focus their careers more on the typical social work that we think of, but some dedicate their lives to doing mental health counseling just like a marriage and family therapist, psychologist, or a licensed professional counselor. Both LCSWs and LMFTs have specialized training built into their degrees and licenses in thinking outside of the individual and into that individual’s relationships, family, and greater community.
All licensed mental health providers (or psychological superheroes as I like to think of them!) have devoted many years to their education and training so that they can be well qualified professionals. They have also spent at least a couple of years after their degree, working with clients under a supervisor before being licensed. After the minimum hours under supervision are completed and the required exams are passed, the mental health professional can be fully licensed to practice independently.
So, what type of counselor is Holly L. Harrison?
I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I have been fully licensed in the state of Missouri since 2012 (I began practicing in 2009, under a supervisor, after I graduated with my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy).
One of the reasons I chose the field of marriage and family therapy is because I loved learning about relationships (healthy relationships are such a key component to a thriving and meaningful life, in my opinion). I wanted to eventually help others with my knowledge and specialization, because I believe helping people with their relationships can make such a massive and positive difference in their lives (and in the lives of everyone around them).
General couples counseling process here at MoxiePsychology Legacy:
Today I will share with you my general approach and system with couples because I think more transparency about what we do in the mental health field is a very good thing. So much of what us counselors accomplish is behind closed doors and confidential—this is important (and confidentiality is a very good thing), but inevitably a lack of information gets out to the public about what we do.
Fortunately, with new technologies, more and more counselors are sharing what they do with the public, and I hope this trend continues. Also, on my end, I want to be transparent about what I do so I can work on always making my products and services better for my clients through feedback and dialogue. Knowing what is helping, what couples want more information about, and what is not working are all important to me.
Ultimately (and really what is most important here), I want you to get matched up with services that are the best fit for you; whether that is with me or another of counselor. I want you to feel better!
Key components of my couples counseling approach
There are several key components to my couples counseling style and approach.
First, couples counseling is not one of 100 things that I do; instead, it is the only service I currently offer. The reason I am doing this is so I can put my full energy and focus into creating a massively valuable and life-changing experience from our work together. My goal is to provide clients with an effective and high-quality experience that makes the most out of their time and money. As time goes on, I will add other products and services, but they will all be relationship, communication, leadership, and boundary oriented in nature.
A second component to my work with couples is that I have a general system I use (however, I do adapt it as clinically appropriate). I used this system with couples at my previous practice I owned (Tranquil Waters Counseling and Wellness) (4), and I found it to be very effective, and I have received a lot of good feedback from clients about it. Do keep in mind that every couple is different and there are no guarantees for the outcome of counseling.
A third component to my approach is the whole reason WHY I designed the couples counseling system. I did it to help couples to feel confident in communicating and working through whatever life threw at them (in the past, now, and in the future). I also designed the approach so that couples could regain a sense of happiness, satisfaction, and security in their relationship together.
Why couples like working with me and my general approach
I have had many couples really like my approach and style because they felt they were learning and practicing skills that they could use in hundreds of different situations. I have seen so many couples (happily) surprised that they could learn how to communicate better and finally feel relief from relationship problems and stress.
In my experience, couples usually want to learn empowering tools and skills so that they can manage conflict well on their own, so they don’t have to rely on a therapist forever. Couples also want topic specific feedback on the issues that brought them in to prevent potential pitfalls and missteps.
Couples counseling approach broken down by session
Intake (Session 1):
Get to know the couple. Assess the couple’s main problem areas they would like to work on, their goals, their history, and what their relationship would look like if counseling was a success and exceeded their expectations. Couples are welcomed to ask any questions or voice any concerns they have.
Create goals. Teach how to identify and greatly reduce common harmful communication habits. This is so important because the harmful communication habits, when used frequently, can completely block out all the good stuff underneath! Sort of like clouds blocking out the sun.
With harmful habits starting to be mostly removed (goodbye clouds!), teach couples how to be specific and clear in their communication, how to encourage/nurture more gratitude in their relationship, and teach couples the Speaker-Listener Technique from Fighting for Your Marriage (5). Have the couples practice the Speaker-Listener Technique using an easy topic first (something they are excited about or looking forward to) in order to “learn the ropes.”
The Speaker-Listener Technique is equivalent to the bumpers at a bowling alley. Bumpers help the ball to reach the goal of knocking down the pins, and they ensure that the ball doesn’t totally drop off the lane. The Speaker-Listener Technique guidelines are your conversation bumpers that keep discussions on track. Just like in bowling, as time goes on, you need the bumpers less and less as your skills increase.
Session 4 and On:
Couples start constructively talking to each other, face to face, and on one issue at a time using their new communication skills. They begin working through the primary issues that brought them in. Initially, couples need a lot more of my guidance and support, but as time goes on, and with more practice, couples gain the skills to feel confident working through issues successfully on their own.
It’s really an amazing privilege to be able to witness this journey! I’ve seen couples in sessions go from being unable to constructively discuss issues, to almost needing no help at all from me in working through issues. This is one of the reasons I was drawn to the field—it really is amazing to see the incredible growth that can happen (and seeing how much better couples feel!).
I also of course provide topic-specific feedback and support, as appropriate, based on the issue (blended family challenges, in-law challenges, healthy relationship boundaries, parenting, affairs, trauma, depression, etc.).
Unique aspects of my personality and style
I have always been a very psychologically observant and intuitive person, and I bring that to my work with couples. For example, I have the ability to really hone in on the key problems and specific interactions that are causing the most trouble between couples. Integrated with this ability is my strength in honing in on what relationship changes will make the most positive impact.
My job is to help make this process easier and to structure it for you
Couples often feel pretty overwhelmed when they first come in because they wonder where to start and what changes will help the most. That’s where I come in. Part of my job is to help clarify for the couple what to work on that will help the most, and to help break down the growing process into small and manageable steps.
What should I do as a client to have a great experience and the best chance of achieving my goals?
In working with me at MoxiePsychology Legacy, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your time here:
Live video telehealth option
I see clients in person at my office in Springfield, Missouri. I can also work with clients anywhere in the state of Missouri through my live video telehealth option (6).
Sometimes clients are in a rural area and there just aren’t any counselors nearby. Or, some clients live in a large city like St. Louis or Kansas City, but they would rather avoid the 30 minutes to 1-hour commute one-way to a therapist’s office.
Insurance is something to consider when deciding where to go for counseling. Some counseling practices accept insurance and some do not. Some practices only accept certain types of insurance. If you want to use your insurance, first check to see if the provider is in-network, and if they are not in-network, how much that will cost. Other practices may offer services on a sliding scale. MoxiePsychology Legacy is self-pay only and does not accept insurance.
Counseling with a focus on religious beliefs
When looking for a couples counselor you will need to decide if you want to work with a counselor who is secular, religious focused/based, or no preference. Think about what is the best fit for you and your partner. The Ozarks, in general, is a highly religious area, and so many couples locally prefer to work with a counselor who is biblically minded and brings in Christianity to the couples counseling experience.
My services are specifically designed to be inclusive, secular, and research-based. They would best fit clients who are not looking for Christian-focused couples counseling. I work with clients with various religious and spiritual beliefs. I show respect and understanding for all my clients, and for all of their religious or spiritual backgrounds.
If your religious or spiritual beliefs are an important part of your life and you would like to include aspects of it into your goals, we can definitely do that. I am here to support your religious and spiritual journey in life from your perspective, and not my own.
I am an LGBTQ ally. I had the honor of serving and supporting many LGBTQ clients at my last practice, Tranquil Waters Counseling and Wellness, and I will continue to do the same at MoxiePsychology Legacy.
I offer convenient afternoon and evening hours (Monday through Thursday) so that I can be available when both partners are off work.
Deciding between couples counseling and individual counseling?
I published a helpful blog on this topic at my previous practice. Click HERE (7) to access the post where you can learn about some ideas and guidelines for deciding between couples counseling and individual counseling.
Did I forget to explain something here? Do you have more questions? I always welcome any questions or comments you have. Please comment below, email me, or call me.
Thanks for joining me today
Thank you for being here with me today. I hope this blog helped to clear up some confusion surrounding couples counseling and helped you to feel better informed about the couples counseling process in general. Hopefully you now can feel confident in what to expect from couples counseling here at MoxiePsychology Legacy. Have a wonderful day!
All the best,
Holly L. Harrison
References and Links
(3) Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage: A deluxe revised edition of the classic best seller for enhancing marriage and preventing divorce (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
(5) Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage: A deluxe revised edition of the classic best seller for enhancing marriage and preventing divorce (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Your use of the website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts does not establish a professional therapeutic relationship between yourself and Holly L. Harrison. By using the website and related accounts, you agree to these terms.
The information on this website and the blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I am not guaranteeing any results.
Please note that the information on this website is not intended to replace or be a substitute for any professional financial, medical, mental health, legal, or other advice.
If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional or medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. If you follow or use the information on the blog, website, newsletter, and social media accounts, you agree that it is at your own risk and you will not hold Holly L. Harrison or MoxiePsychology, LLC liable or responsible for the outcome.
MoxiePsychology Legacy is an outpatient mental health clinic and not equipped for emergency services. If you are in need of emergency mental or medical services, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Holly L. Harrison, MA, LMFT